technology

Shuttleworth Collection Engineering Day = Grown Up Sheds by Shaun Armstrong

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There's something alluring about sheds. Havens with tools and tins and the gathered detritus of many hours tinkering and whittling. Attempts to fix or create, successfully or otherwise - in relatively undisturbed tranquility, save perhaps an old paint-spattered radio. And mugs of tea. And if you breath deeply, the smell of oil and wood-shavings. We're not talking Shoffices here - wooden garden workplaces with desks, books and wifi - but the sort of place where organisation means over-use of a Dymo label printer on old tubs and tins to reveal their assorted contents - nails, tapes and bits of electrical items that are sure to "come in handy" one day.

My Dad had such a shed-cum-workshop which as his gathered spoils and projects increased, he made it larger - cutting it in half down the middle and inserting a higher, pitched perspex roof to let more light in. As you do.

Sheds come in all shapes and sizes and whilst the ones at the Shuttleworth Collection of aircraft and classic cars at Old Warden, Bedfordshire are more "hangars", the principle is pretty much the same.

Every year they open up the engineering shed hangar to show their works-in-progress and for the engineers (the stars of the show along with the airplanes) to share their enthusiasm and chat to the visitors young and old.

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This was my first visit to Shuttleworth, so camera-wise I only had my little Fuji 100s and my phone, but was amazed how many people were gunned up with all sorts of kit - tripods, off-camera flash and more DSLR's with the brand and model stitched into the strap than you could shake a selfie-stick at. But when you think of how close to classic warbirds (especially the last flying Hurricane that saw action in WWII) you could get, plus see the innards of a Spitfire in bottom-up rebuild, you could see why there was such enthusiasm.

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Aside from the main focus (and smell) of the planes, I was more fascinated by the people - visitors and team, and the details of not only the machinery but life in the workplace not normally set for public "display". The quizzical technical interest of the more mature gentleman down to the families and children marvelling in the unusual sights of design, materials and finish, was fascinating.

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Here are some of my images from the Shuttleworth visit, spanning visitors, engineers and details of classic craftsmanship.

Air Space, IWM Duxford - Official Pre-Build Footage. by Shaun Armstrong

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Rare footage from AirSpace, Imperial War Museum, Duxford with Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw.

The following video was shot by me in March 2005 at the start of the building of "Air Space", then a new indoor space for Imperial War Museum, Duxford in Cambridgeshire, UK, to house and showcase many iconic British planes, including Lancaster, Spitfire, Vulcan and Concorde and also tell the story of aviation for future generations.

Whilst there were some press photographers there, I don't think it was formally filmed (I may be wrong - no doubt someone will tell me) nor was there the legion of mobile documenting tech there is today, feeding into social media! So having dug out (no pun intended) the footage, thought it worthwhile to edit it a little bit and share; if my video and audio friends in particular could please excuse 2005 production quality.

A time capsule containing a selection of local and aviation artefacts was buried under the new location, before the build commenced, and as a supporter of the project (my late father had worked on many of the iconic aircraft during WWII in RAF Bomber Command and later at RAE Thurleigh in Research & Development) I went along to see the ceremony.

The event included a short but poignant talk by VIP guest Alex Henshaw, MBE, the original Spitfire test pilot and a short display by the iconic WWII fighter, despite the drizzle

Sadly, Alex Henshaw died in 2007, aged 94 and never saw Air Space open to the public.

Alex Henshaw on Wikipedia

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Decorating - New Science Park Conference Centre with Ice-Cream and Tea by Shaun Armstrong

Unilever and Goodman are global businesses, so decorating their new 54,000 sq ft building The Exchange at Colworth Science Park, with bespoke artwork was a fantastic commission.

This building complex features a state-of-the-art innovation hub and research facility plus conference facility supporting high-growth, innovative business in the health and wellness sectors, drawing in expertise from Cambridge and Cranfield Universities and the onsite research power of the Unilever Group. Unilever also sponsor The Unilever Series of high-profile art installations at the Tate Modern.

The plan was to use a mubsta Decorate solution to create a series of unique, abstract artwork pieces that would provide colour and dynamism to the open plan spaces, boardrooms and corridors but, in line with other mubsta projects, be the gateway to stories about underlying innovation and commercialisation heritage, without "branding" it as such. The images would be heritage driven but modern, unique and innovative.

Working directly with various onsite teams, exclusive access was given to their secure operational pilot plants for ice-cream and beverages to view the processes at work and create raw photographic material from which to create a Gallery of abstract pieces. It was important given the patents and intellectual property restrictions to build an  effective working relationship with each section, to avoid photographing certain pieces of equipment and to have all "raw" images content approved.

The processes viewed included trialing a new flavour of "Magnum" ice-cream, a new lolly making machine, tea extraction for a range of ice-teas, new brewing equipment and a visit to their own tea plantation. I also worked with one of Unilever's five global "Discover" facilities to select a few images from their scientific microscopy records.

The raw material was then graded, sorted and a Gallery of abstract bold works created using personal styles and techniques of digital enhancement. A core value of my work is that no distortion to the underlying structure of the images is undertaken so there is a valid link to the content and therefore the story that can be told or evolved. It is about a theme, a view, a selection and creative colour-work.

From the Gallery, the Directorate chose a number of pieces to be used in various spaces and a layout was agreed. In total 26 pieces of artwork were used and each will have an interpretive story to go with it; the feedback from those viewing the pieces so far has been excellent and they have promoted questions, dialogue and opinion in addition to their decorative power. The pieces are high-quality acrylic plus a dynamic covering to two sets of doors in the open-plan area.

The Exchange at Colworth Science Park

Decorating - New Corporate Offices with Code-breaking Heritage by Shaun Armstrong

This commission was to create a set of abstract pieces of bespoke artwork for a new corporate headquarters based on the WWII Code-breaking work of Bletchley Park.

When Mazars LLP accountants moved into their new 120 man Regional Office at The Pinnacle in Milton Keynes they chose, via a staff competition, to reflect the valuable and pioneering work of Bletchley Park in their front-office meeting and Boardrooms. Working with Senior Partners at Mazars LLP and the Directorate at the Bletchley Park Trust, a one-stop project creating unique, stimulating artwork and also to build ties and raise awareness of the Charity was facilitated by mubsta.

Generous, exclusive access to valuable, historic technology and artefacts, courtesy of Bletchley Park museum and archives was secured following which a range of images were produced as the source photographic material. From these a Gallery of unique artworks was created and final choices were made before being fabricated into high-quality acrylic pieces and two 5 metre by 2.5 metre vinyl wall-coverings applied to the main Boardroom.

This powerful artwork coupled with name banners on glass walls, information boards and a high-quality printed Brochure allow staff, visitors and clients to not only enjoy the unique project but learn more about the key events and unsung heroes of innovation - a special deal, allowing visitors to get 20% off entry to the Park and museums, was also developed.

To launch the artwork, a private viewing was held and over 80 professionals and corporate clients attended to network, view the pieces, see a real Enigma machine and listen to fascinating talks from Bletchley Park Director, Simon Greenish and WWII Park veteran Jean Valentine, who two weeks earlier had been introduced to HM The Queen.

It was great to see this mutually beneficial project succeed on so many levels and also get some valuable PR, including front cover of the local Business MK magazine and coverage in a number of news outlets and plans are in course to use it as a case study for further fundraising activities in 2012.